Royal Mail pulls net-zero target forward to 2040

Royal Mail has pledged to reduce emissions across its value chain to net-zero by 2040, pulling its long-term climate commitment forward by a decade after plotting a course to decarbonise more rapidly.


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Royal Mail pulls net-zero target forward to 2040

Pictured: An electric postal van at Royal Mail's Newport delivery office

The postal services provider has today (6 June) published a new four-pillar ‘Steps to Zero’ plan, confirming the accelerated target and outlining plans to reduce emissions from deliveries, operations and the supply chain.

‘Steps to Zero’s’ overarching targets are reducing Scope 1 (direct) and 2 (power-related) emissions by 25% by the 2025-26 financial year, against a 2019-20 financial year baseline. The target for Scope 3 (indirect) emissions is a 25% reduction between 2020-21 and 2030. Royal Mail has applied for verification in line with 1.5C from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for these targets.

Should these targets be achieved, Royal Mail will see the average emissions footprint of each parcel it delivers reducing from 205 grams of CO2e at present to 50 grams of CO2e by 2040.

Underpinning the headline targets are measures to reduce emissions across the value chain. On low-carbon buildings and operations, Royal Mail has stated that it is ready to switch to 100% renewable electricity for domestic operations this year. It will then seek to self-generate a greater proportion of its own renewable electricity to reduce its reliance on tariffs. The firm is assessing the potential for solar at 200 UK sites and has already confirmed a large rooftop solar installation at its new Midlands Parcel Hub in Daventry, which is due to come online in 2023.

On deliveries, the new plan reaffirms Royal Mail’s commitment to fleet electrification, stating that the firm will be operating more than 5,500 electric vehicles (EVs) by spring 2023. It also confirms the firm’s intention to invest £12.5m in EV charging infrastructure in the 2022-23 financial year, to decrease the number of domestic flights it operates and to move more mail by rail.

Circular economy and collaboration plans

Aside from low-carbon deliveries and operations, the plan details new commitments to “make circular happen”, acknowledging the intersection between the low-carbon transition and the transition to a world without waste. Under this pillar, Royal Mail has pledged to reduce waste in its operations and deliveries by 25% by 2030. It will complete a strategic review of all products this year, identifying instances in which reusable items could replace disposables; items could be reduced in size; recyclability could be improved and/or more recycled content could be used.

There is also a commitment to improving the Parcel Collect service, whereby businesses and individuals can arrange for parcels to be collected. This will improve circularity by ensuring that returns are sent on time, Royal Mail has stated. Additionally stated is a commitment to

The ‘Steps to Zero’ plan’s fourth and final pillar is “collaborating for action”. It states that Royal Mail will work with competitors and other businesses across the UK’s postal system, as well as with policymakers, to work towards standardised reporting on CO2e per parcel to customers. Royal Mail customers can now access emissions per parcel on the firm’s app.

Also under this pillar, Royal Mail has highlighted its intention to collaborate with other fleet operators to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport. The organisation is a member of The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, which aimed to make EVs “the new normal” by 2030. EV100 represents more than 120 member businesses, meaning it represents significant purchasing power for vehicles and chargers and also has a significant capability to engage with policymakers.

Aside from electric road transport, Royal Mail has invested in solutions including electric drones, biogas-powered trucks and telemetry technologies which improve the efficiency of petrol and diesel routes. At present, it operates around 1,130 vehicles powered by electricity or alternative fuels.

Royal Mail’s chief executive Simon Thompson said that delivering the 2040 net-zero target will require the organisation to “transform the way we collect, process and deliver the 10 billion letters and parcels we handle each year”. Thompson added that environmental sustainability is “the next battleground for the business”.

Royal Mail will report against ‘Steps to Zero’ objectives annually through its ESG report. The next report is due out later this month.

For the 2020-21 financial year, Royal Mail UK posted a 5.8% increase in its absolute carbon footprint. It attributed this increase due to an increased volume of parcels and posted a 6.9% reduction in carbon intensity when intensity is measured per £1m of revenues.

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